It took more than 20 break-ups for Melissa Meagher to realise her six-year on-and-off relationship with her ex had to end for good.
Only it was causing the 47-year-old Brisbane mother-of-two increasing amounts of angst – the friends abandoning her, the instability, and that throbbing sense of loneliness that envelopes you when you are in a profoundly unhappy relationship.
“It’s very destructive,” she told Mamamia, and it’s why when a new study was released last week with findings on just how toxic on-again off-again relationships could be, she found herself nodding in agreement.
The research, published in journal Family Relations, quizzed 545 people to assess the impacts of on-and-off relationship cycles. It found there were high rates of mental health issues as well as general distress. These relationships are also associated with poorer communication, lower commitment levels and higher abuse rates.
What’s even sadder, is that through the accumulation of relationship transitions, each new iteration tends to be worse than the one before it.
Sixty per cent of adults have experienced on-again off-again relationships. Study co-author and University of Missouri associate professor Kate Monk said while breaking up could sometimes help partners realise the importance of their relationship, those who were routinely splitting were putting their wellbeing at risk.
“(These people) need to ‘look under the hood’ of their relationships to determine what’s going on,” Monk said.
Meagher wishes it hadn’t taken her so long to do that, but stresses it is easier than many realise to slip into cyclical relationship patterns, because things are not always abysmal.